Monday June 18, 2018

The (W)rap Up for 2012 - June [1 of 2]
Posted by Emanuel Wallace at Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 at 6:30PM :: Email this article :: Print this article

[Cancer 4 Cure]El-P :: Cancer 4 Cure
Fat Possum

Author: Patrick Taylor

"An El-P album is an event. He's only released three vocal albums in the past ten years, and each one has been a must-own, at least for fans of underground hip-hop. His albums are carefully constructed, full of complicated rhymes, themes, and beats. He does all his own production (only fitting for a man originally known as El-Producto), collaborating with a team of musicians to create music that falls somewhere between hip-hop, rock, and noise. Each of his two previous albums set such a high standard that when he announced his latest release, fans had to wonder if he could keep up his winning streak. From the first listen of "Cancer 4 Cure," the answer is clear: of course he can. 2002's "Fantastic Damage" tried to process post 9/11 New York, and 2007's "I'll Sleep When You're Dead" captured the paranoia and dysfunction of the Bush years. El-P has called "Cancer 4 Cure" his fighting record, and the man's got a lot to be angry about. The economy is STILL in the toilet, being voted out of office somehow made the right wing come back angrier and stronger than ever, we're still fighting two endless wars that we refuse to talk about or pay for, and, oh yeah, El-P lost his label AND his best friend. While the death of Camu Tao hangs over the album, the demise of Definitive Jux seems to have given El-P the gift of freedom. He no longer has to worry about negotiating with artists, vendors, distributors, and retailers. He's not bogged down in the day-to-day business of running a label, and is no longer on the front lines of the disintegrating record industry."

Bigg Jus :: Machines That Make Civilization Fun :: Mush Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor[Machines That Make Civilization Fun]
"Bigg Jus made his name as a third of seminal New York underground hip-hop act Company Flow, rapping alongside El-P and Mr. Len. That group pioneered new territory in the 90s, making rap music that didn't conform to the commercial or independent rap of the day. They weren't jiggy, gangsta, bohemian, or conscious. Their beats, rhymes, and vibe were unique, a mixture of New York battle rap with a large dose of weirdness. Company Flow fell apart in 2001, although the group has threatened to record a new album and reunited for a few live shows. El-P went on to found Def Jux, do successful production work for Cannibal Ox, Killer Mike and others, and release three highly acclaimed solo albums. Jus also founded his own label, Sub Verse Music, and released several solo albums and two albums with Orko Elohiem as NMS. Both El-P and Bigg Jus are releasing their latest albums just two weeks apart. I'm not sure if it was intentional on Jus's part to put out a record so close to his former partner, but given that El-P was on a version of "Black Rose," the first single from the album, it's probable that Jus was aware when El-P's record was dropping. Either way, it's hard to listen to "Machines That Make Civilization Fun" without comparing it to El-P's "Cancer 4 Cure." Both El-P and Bigg Jus have centered their careers on making different variations on the noisy, post-apocalyptic rap that they started with Company Flow. Jus has gone in a more politicized direction than El-P, and he continues that trend on "Machines." "

Ecid :: Werewolf Hologram :: Fill in the Breaks
as reviewed by Zach 'Goose' Gase

[Werewolf Hologram]
"Minneapolis rapper/producer Ecid's latest release "Werewolf Hologram" is well… weird. Hip hop has long embraced the weirdo from Slick Rick in the 80s, Ol Dirty in the 90s, MF Doom in the 00s and in recent years, Danny Brown. Ecid wears his odd ball badge proudly as he boasts on the album's finale: "I'm trying to dumb it down but don't know infant / I'll admit I'm on the weirder side of different / But weird is in again so I'm all-in, let's start a business." Yes weird is in, and probably has been in for a while, but what makes weird rappers like Doom and ODB successful is that they have great personalities to complement their weirdness. Ecid and "Werewolf Hologram's" main drawback is Ecid's lacks a big personality to go along with his zany lyrics and production. His voice on many tracks is as grating as they come, and his style reminds me of early Geologic (of Blue Scholars) but with less charisma. It is something that he seems to improve on as the album goes on, but the first few tracks are especially hard to get through. Lyrically, Ecid is pretty solid and occasionally has pretty dope one-liners like "I've got friends that'll steal your watch, and be like ‘yo bro, what time you got?'" but has a few too many stand out wack lines like "You wanna change, but your wardrobe's limited." "

Inno :: Awaiting the Arrival :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Awaiting the Arrival]
"This is one of those classic "bad news/good news" situations. The bad news for Joseph 'Inno' Alvarez is that we missed the deadline for his Kickstarter project, which came almost three months ago. I accept my role in that I kept setting aside the album for review multiple times, although an unassuming green school folder with the album's title hand-written on the front didn't get my ass in gear nor make me want to mail it to a writer who I assumed (right or wrong) would pass on reviewing it. The GOOD news is that he did indeed meet his goals on the Kickstarter project, exceeding the $10,000 in funding he needed with only 59 backers, which I find incredibly impressive. That actually encouraged me to give the album in this green folder a spin - that and Inno's comment that "any review even after the deadline would still be helpful." Before we get any further into this review though, I still have to get into the whole "what not to do" facts for artists with albums they'd like to get reviewed, even as I know that in an increasingly digital age many of the things I'm about to say no longer apply. "

Maggz :: Soundscapes: Spring Selection ::
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace

[Soundscapes: Spring Selection]
"I would expect to see at least one more edition to make the non-cypher complete. For those who may not be familiar with our faithful audible meteorologist, Maggz, he hails from Rochester, NY but is currently based in Columbus, Ohio. He produced Zero Star's "Don't Look Now" in its entirety and I previously reviewed his Optix-produced "Maggnetic Opposites." Going off of memory alone, this selection of choice crops is the smallest, coming in at five tracks and hovering around fourteen minutes in length. After the brief introduction, the season begins with "Morning Dew," a track that sounds like it would be the perfect compliment to an early morning jog through the neighborhood while the streets are relatively empty. The scaling synths and sparse snaps seem to echo the sentiment. "Warm Rain" is more chaotic by comparison, but I don't mean that in a negative way. It's just a bit busier with more active kick drums and snares. That moment after the heaviest part of the storm, but before the sun peeks back out is what "Clouds of Mist" seems to embody. Signs of the storm still linger, but it's evident that better days are on the horizon. By the time we get to "Blooming Sun," the birds are back out and chirping as the rain begins to drain away and we're back to the simplicity of the season. The synths are mellow and the drums are back to being sparse and faintly heard. "

Snowgoons :: Terroristen Volk :: Goon MuSick
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Terroristen Volk]
"A German Snowgoons album has been some time coming. Despite being based out of Germany, the 'Goons knew early on where they belonged - the American East Coast underground rap scene. It wasn't until 2009 that they started to feature domestic rappers on their projects, namely the virtual Transatlantic joint venture "German Snow." After extending their portfolio with full-length production gigs for M.O.P. and Reef the Lost Cauze last year, in 2012 the Snowgoons are ready for an entire album almost completely made in Germany. Having a hard-earned reputation for being a rather one-track minded production team in terms of sound and philosophy, the Snowgoons make sure they stick to their script regardless of language. The album title "Terroristen Volk" ('Terrorist People') refers to a parody of a national social marketing campaign called 'You Are Germany.' In his video 'You Are [a] Terrorist,' visual artist Alexander Lehmann criticized intentions to curtail civil rights (especially the expansion of electronic surveillance) after the terrorist attacks of New York, Madrid and London. The clip's audio opens "Terroristen Volk," and while its smooth sarcasm isn't representative of what follows, a deep feeling of distrust drives many of these rappers in a fashion international listeners are familiar with from Ill Bill, Immortal Technique et al."

Tiger Shadow :: The Adventures of the Tiger Shadow ::
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[The Adventures of the Tiger Shadow]
"I actually thought the artist's name was "Tiger Shady" at first due to the font used in the artwork. I actually pondered that for a couple of minutes to boot. I wondered if he was Slim Shady's brother by a different mother of an Asian persuasion. I wondered if he'd be a cross between Jin and Miilkbone, yet an amalgamation that was ultimately greater than the sum of those parts. I pictured Tiger Shady pitching his demo to corporate executives who didn't understand the depth of his love for hip-hop, who could only imagine him being pigeonholed into a niche they naively believed wouldn't sell, and passing on his album - forcing him to release it himself. Ultimately at least part of that vivid daydream was accurate, and as it turns out there's nothing Shady about Tiger Shadow - figuratively or literally. Ripping this CD informs you that it's an instrumental, but whoever updated that database clearly wasn't paying attention. Tiger Shadow is an alternative hip-hop duo hailing from Leeds, a city/borough of West Yorkshire, England. Learning that made me make another assumption before listening - the lead rapper of the group would have the distinctive and commonly exported British meets West Indies flow of the UK hip-hop scene."

Romain Virgo :: The System :: VP Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[The System]
"Romain Virgo came onto the reggae scene in 2007 when he won the Jamaican equivalent of American Idol, the Digicel Rising Stars competition. His 2010 self-titled debut was an excellent album, highlighting an amazing voice that belied his young age. Now, at 22, he's releasing his sophomore effort, "The System." The opening track sounds suspiciously like Train's "Hey, Soul Sister," with its acoustic guitars and "hey-yeah's." I immediately got nervous: did Romain go mom rock? Then his voice kicks in and all fears subside. The song is about the many ways in which the system lets people down, with a mournful chorus of "I feel like letting go." It's gorgeous, heartbreaking, and soulful, exactly what you've come to expect from Romain. Much of the album deals with the struggles of average people. "Minimum Wage" describes the challenge of working for peanuts. " Somebody tell me if this is not worse than slavery/Living under minimum wage," sings Romain. He follows this up with the similarly themed "Another Day Another Dollar," and the deceptively upbeat "Food Fi the Plate." Romain shines brightest on tracks like "Dem a Coward" where he gets a chance to show off both his amazing voice and his powerful yell, calling out thugs for the cowards they are. "Not Today" is another standout track, a pop ballad with Romain declaring "I looked death straight in the eye and said ‘I'm not going to die today." "

The White House Band :: Renaissance :: CapCity Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"From the jump The White House Band proclaims itself to be "the most refreshing" release in hip-hop. Okay, hyperbole is to be expected, but I'm staring at this dude who looks like a cross between Percy Watson and Charlie Murphy, which leaves me unsure what kind of "refreshment" I'm in for. I hope it doesn't involve a couch, or a German suplex, or a German suplex ONTO a couch (though that would at least be a softer landing than a canvas).Well "GangstaGrass" is actually a collective of like-minded artists and producers who believe in mixing bluegrass music with hip-hop. That's a whole different subject for a whole 'nother review. In the here and now, what you need to know is that The White House Band is (like Heath Slater) a "one-man rock band" who is his OWN featured artist in his own group. Weird? Not in this music industry, although it's arguably ever so slightly egotistical. Still anybody who can play guitar and rap at the same damn time ought to be a little bit proud of it. Apparently being a one-man rock band just wasn't enough, so for "Renaissance" the man who also goes by the name David E Beats decided to bring in Mick Boogie as the host of the album. I honestly don't know what Mick Boogie adds to this album (no offense to duke meant, I'm still a fan of his work) but after hearing the phrase "Yeah! Whattup? This David E beat is SICK!!" over and over again I'm starting to agree, maybe just by sheer repetition."


[Love & Danger]Kool Keith :: Love & Danger
Junkadelic Music

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
Click here to find out more!

"When listening to the second track of Kool Keith's brand new album "Love & Danger" entitled "You Love That," it's entirely open to interpretation if Keith is celebrating oversized women who love to eat or mocking their obesity. Needless to say, not every rapper will come to a woman by saying "I'll lace you with that Dannon yogurt." If you expect clearer explanations of what's going on, then you should know right now you've got the wrong rapper. Keith Thornton remains as inscrutable in 2012 as ever. In a career that now spans four different decades, he's been lyrically ahead of his time and a sex obsssed pervert, exhibited multiplepersonalitydisorder, and even been incomprehensibly whack at times - but never boring or average. Kool Keith is probably the only person in hip-hop who can get away with the line "Can I have my own autograraph pleeeeease?" in a song like "New York" and have it make perfect sense. On any given day, he may not even know who he is, which is his gift to hip-hop. Make no mistake though, his is a carefully calculated madness with a specific method behind it.DJ Junkaz Lou falls into that rare category of producers who could give Keith a diamond clarity lens to focus his laser beam raps through. Keith is often his own worst enemy, as his self-made audio experiments are often insufferable noise, over which he delivers songs lacking in any recognizeable structure."

Big K.R.I.T. :: Live From the Underground :: Def Jam
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace

[Live From the Underground]
"Reading those lines from 2005 now almost seems prophetic, but that was the attitude that Big K.R.I.T. has always seemed to inject into his music. Most of the world, self included, didn't really take notice of him until 2010's "K.R.I.T. Wuz Here," but Krizzle was doing his thing way before then. Years prior, K.R.I.T. dared the world to picture him being a success with his "See Me On Top" and "See Me On Top II" mixtapes. It was a pretty lofty goal, being that Justin Scott was only 18 years old at the time, but he remained focused. Back then, K.R.I.T. was still developing his voice and the sounds of others that certainly influenced him could be heard in his flow. Southern legends like T.I., Juicy J, MJG and even a bit of Pastor Troy definitely appear to have left their mark on the younger BK, as he then sometimes would call himself. On the production side, Kritikal was the name and the beats weren't always as soulful as they can be now. On the other hand, many of his beats had a Hypnotized Minds feel to them, so there were always glimmers of his potential. For example, "Just Touched Down" first appeared on "See Me On Top II" before undergoing several tweaks both lyric and production-wise before the release of "K.R.I.T. Wuz Here." With that release, the internet world began buzzing about a dude from Mississippi that wasn't David Banner and sounded a hell of a lot like Pimp C. I usually don't feed into hype but on a whim, I decided to give the project a listen. Honestly, initially I gave K.R.I.T. a chance because of where exactly in Mississippi he was from. Meridian is not far from the state line at all and I have family on the other side of that line over in Alabama. When I visit down there, we go to Meridian to do our shopping at the Bonita Lakes Mall. I've taken photos at the Bonita Lakes Park. Very nice place."

various artists :: Hip Hop Mix USA (Mixed by DJ Woogie) :: Phase One Music
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Hip Hop Mix USA (Mixed by DJ Woogie)]
"It's time for a summer mix - the weather is getting hella hot, the line to get ice cream is getting long, and the pools are packed full of teenagers as the opening night of The Hunger Games. People need some party tunes they can get their dance moves on to, and "Hip Hop Mix USA (Mixed by DJ Woogie)" aims to be your summer lick of chocolate, vanilla or swirl. It's fifteen songs made for the dance floor, and if you buy the physical version of this album it even comes with an instructional DVD showing you how to do the dances some of these songs made famous. Let's stop daydreaming like Rae, Meth, Cap and Ghost though and come back for two scoops in a minute - there's some actual factuals to get through about this mix. There are 15 songs in total, and even though you can chapter your way to individual hits if you like, it's presented as one continous mix you can play from start to finish at your dance party/social gathering. The woman showing off her curves and moves on the cover may not be PG, but the mix itself is - no advisory sticker and no explicit versions of the songs on hurr. For these tracks the lyrics are somewhat secondary to the beat and dance anyway though. You might know the difference between the two versions of "Teach Me How to Dougie," but I guarantee if you're getting your D-Town boogie on, it doesn't matter. "

58Beats presents :: Wor(l)d Connects Vol. 1 :: 58Beats/Groove Attack
as reviewed by Matt Jost

[Wor(l)d Connects Vol. 1]
"Yeah so technically this is billed to 58Beats, but effectively "Wor(l)d Connects Vol. 1" is somewhat of a follow-up to Glam's "Laceration," which we covered in 2007. As 58Beats' in-house producer he crafted all the tracks on the label's latest release. The difference is that this time around the global connections were established through Urban Vibes, a concert series taking place in Munich since 2006 that aims to showcase urban music from all four corners of the world. Urban Vibes is an official event held under the auspices of the city, more precisely Munich's Department of Arts and Culture, sub-sections Cultural Education/International Relations/Urban Cultures. Glam and crew stick to hip-hop, but they demonstrate diversity on plenty levels. Senegalese rap veterans are featured back to back on track one and two. With someone chatting in patois over a funky, bouncy beat, "Who We Are" could be mistaken for a Kardinal Offishall track first, but the French and German raps that follow mean that Dakar's Pee Froisss are joined by David Pe, rapper for Glam's group Main Concept. Characterizing his vocabulary as regional yet his language as global, David Pe affirms that the whole 58Beats posse can get behind a project like this. "

Clams Casino :: Instrumental Mixtape 2 :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Instrumental Mixtape 2]
"There are two divergent trends in hip-hop production these days. On the one hand you have producers getting noisier and noisier. Death Grips, El-P, and Bigg Jus have all put out albums in the past few months that sound a little bit like a robot getting into a fight with a laundry machine and electric guitar. These artists are making beats that are chaotic and cacophonous, as soothing as a root canal and as peaceful as an explosion. On the other hand, you have artists like Blue Sky Black Death and Clams Casino who are making music that has more in common with ambient electronica than funk or jazz. Clams Casino has made a name for himself as the go-to producer for Lil B and A$ap Rocky. He has just released his second instrumental mixtape. Volume 2 sees Clams Casino continuing to build on and expand the sounds he worked with on his first instrumental mixtape. There are lots of ethereal synths and re-worked female vocals. He combines these elements with banging bass, skittering hi-hats, and snapping snares. It's Dirty South mixed with Bristol trip-hop, and it works as well here as it did on the first installment. It's not all mellow, however. He mixes things up on Squadda B's "Kissing on My Syrup," which has pulsing synths and driving snares. "Palace" is about as close to Lex Luger as Clams Casino is going to get, adding a vocal chorus to make music that is both bombastic and pretty. "Bass" trades on staccato synth bursts, and "Angels" combines blown-out bass and a woman's voice to create a beat that is both peaceful and energetic."

Jesse Abraham & PremRock :: Live at Southpaw :: DJ Booth
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Live at Southpaw]
"Jesse Abraham and PremRock got together for a live set in August of 2011, and as so often happens at live concerts, someone there in the venue was recording the show. Thankfully in this case it didn't turn wind up as a poor quality bootleg of a bootleg sold secondhand on eBay. Abraham and Prem set up their OWN recording equipment. "Live at Southpaw" captured the sound of the live raps so clearly it could almost be mistaken for an in-studio recording session.

Wait - is that necessarily a good thing? I'm certainly not praising the audio quality of a third generation concert bootleg, but by the same token if you're going to capture what it means to be "live" it has to sound a little dirty. On "JA Medley" they have to encourage the audience to make MORE noise just so you can get the feeling there's somebody in the room with them. The audio sounds slightly distorted by the microphones and amplifiers, but in 2012 we know it's possible to create that effect in the studio, as numerous Beastie Boys albums have shown us over the years. (R.I.P. Adam Yauch.) Sometimes it's the belching of drunk audience members, random haters yelling shit at the stage, and miscues as the performer misses a word or a beat that helps you grab that "live" sound by the throat. By the end of the "JA Medley" they do get that right, as Abraham does his own live cover of the OutKast classic "Bombs Over Baghdad." You can hear that a FEW members of the audience got that it was a call and response song, but the volume of silence as most of them don't sing along with the chorus is almost deafening. That's a live show - when you try something as an experiment and it doesn't work, but nevertheless you suck it up and continue for the packed venue."

Koolade :: Koolade Beats Rocky :: Blackout Entertainment
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Koolade Beats Rocky]
"Even if the name "Rocky" wasn't in the title of this album, the lyrics of the above track would have hipped you to the fact this Koolade album is all the way live to 2-1-5. There's an interesting twist to this Phillie Blunt though. As Maylay notes in the opening to "Philly Morning" this album is "all world, West Philly to Zagreb [...] even out in Croatia they feel this shit." Say word? Word son, because that's where Koolade comes from. The man behind some of your favorite songs from Masta Ace, Styles P and Ghostface Killah hails from the biggest little country in Europe, a land of proud people with big balls who drink Ožujsko beer and sing about how their soldiers once marched all the way to Paris. The next time you have to put on a three piece suit for a classy function, you can thank them for introducing Parisyans to the style of wearing neckties. (I learned all this from an episode of Zane Lamprey's "Three Sheets.") Getting back on track though, Koolade has decided for the first time in 15 years to create an album of his own, and in keeping with that length, he's created a 15 song release that's styled after the 15 rounds that Rocky Balboa boxes in his title fights on the Hollywood screen. As you'd expect the instrumentals of Bill Conti factor heavily into this CD, which may in part be why this album was given away as a free download. Somehow though I lucked into a hard copy of the album though, and even though it only came in a CD sleeve, it has a professionally printed insert and disc artwork. If it weren't for the high cost of clearing these samples, you'd probably find this one at retail stores somewhere near you. "

Stretch Money :: 25 Miles Per Hour :: Hot Lava Records
as reviewed by Mike Baber

[25 Miles Per Hour]
"Like many underground rappers today, Stretch Money sees a problem with the current state of mainstream hip-hop. After growing up listening to legends such as Biggie, Nas, and Tupac, Stretch reminisces on the days when hip-hop had "substance" and attempts to steer it back in the right direction with his sophomore album "25 Miles Per Hour," inspired by both his love for the music and his struggles growing up in a single-parent household in Detroit. Of course, while this sounds good in theory, it takes more than just grit and determination to make it in hip-hop, and while it is evident that Stretch Money possesses both these qualities, absent from his latest release is the lyrical prowess and complexity – the substance – that is necessary to warrant significant replay value. The lyrical shortcomings are evident from the opening track, "Work of Art," as Stretch Money gives the listener a window into his personal life and his career trying to make it in the rap game, voicing his frustration with the hardships he encounters along the way. While Stretch succeeds in getting his message across, the lyrics are very straightforward and lack the clever wordplay or intricate rhyme scheme necessary to set him apart from any number of similarly situated artists with the same story."


[The Smell of Success] Cookbook :: The Smell of Success
Just-Us Records

Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
Click here to find out more!

"On a short list of slept on, underrated, quality hip-hop producers Cookbook would be right near the top for me - and he can rap too. That's not rare any more in 2012 though is it? The more expensive sampling gets, and the more overcrowded the rap marketplace becomes, the more economical it gets for artists to produce their own songs. What's truly rare about Cookbook, besides L.A. Symphony credentials few other people can claim, is that he's a beat maestro who raps "I hope I get bodied by my guest on my own song." In an industry where swollen heads are the norm, Cookbook brags about his beats a little, but ultimately his olfactory leads "The Smell of Success" to guests like Chino XL on "Musica Grande." "Chino the lyric Jesus" definitely lives up to Cook's vow that he wanted to be bodied on his own song - in fact Chino bodies it so hard he may have bumped into Uno Mas on the following track "D.I.Y. (My Way)" by accident. Styliztik Jones and El Prez join Uno Mas on the very next cut - the album's first official single "The Party's Still Jumpin'." Back to the guest list for "The Smell of Success" party though, and it's a dope selection on this 14 track album. Eligh creates a "Wonderful Taste" when he gets to add his flavors, but Open Mike Eagle's got some "Original Ideas" for his track, and Guilty Simpson does his thing on the album's title song too."

BURNTmd :: Not So Black & White :: GTD Entertainment/DM360
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Not So Black & White]
"We last heard from BURNTmd back in 2010, when I wrote the following words about him: "The producers who work with BURNT need to learn how to use his unique vocal tone to maximum effect, and BURNT himself needs to pull his rhymes back a bit to make everything he wants to say fit. The ultimate conclusion is that BURNTmd has a lot of potential." It appears as if the "Brooklyn made, Vermont raised" emcee has taken that advice to heart, but before we get to that let's discuss a few of the actual factuals relating to this new CD. First and foremost it's easily the longest release of BURNTmd's career to date - 19 tracks clocking in at 58:32 in length - nearly a whole hour of new tunes. Secondly his ability to pull in top name guests to appear on his release has also increased. Keith Murray jumps on the beat with him on the symphonic "Smugglers Notch,"Planet Asia and Copyright both appear on "Medicine Ball," Craig G appears on both the original and the second chapter of "Smooth Criminal" (nothing like Michael Jackson or Alien Ant Farm, trust) and Phil the Agony is on multiple tracks from start to finish. BURNTmd is definitely clever with the wordplay, but the key to his improvement over "Let's Get Ill" is that he slowed down his pace just a little bit, which makes it easier to understand his gruff phlegmy delivery."

Devin the Dude :: Seriously Trippin' EP :: E1 Entertainment
as reviewed by Emanuel Wallace

[Seriously Trippin' EP]
"Fast forward about six more well-received solo albums, two group albums with Coughee Brothaz and an EP later and we're back to the modern day where Devin's charismatic but ordinary everyman approach to most life situations in general allows him to be as crass as he wants to be without necessarily coming off as threatening and has enabled him to have a cult following among weed-smokers and nonsmokers alike. When "Landing Gear" was released in 2008, Rap-A-Lot, no longer being Devin's home label, decided to release their own album of Devin material on the same day entitled "Hi Life." Subsequently, my eyebrows were raised in 2010 when "Suite 420" came out and then just a couple of months later, another release, "Gotta Be Me" hit the streets. While I've now come to the conclusion that "Gotta Be Me" was an official release from The Dude, I will have to admit that I initially passed on it due to my skepticism. As of late, Devin's been on the guest verse circuit and you can hear him on the latest albums from the likes of Young Jeezy and Big K.R.I.T.. This most recent offering from Devin is his second EP and he mostly doesn't stray too far at all from the subject matter that makes him so endearing to his fans: weed, women, alcohol. Rinse. Repeat. "

Earl Sweatshirt :: Earl :: Odd Future
** RapReviews "Back to the Lab" series **

as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

"As the Juice Crew was to the 1980's, the Wu-Tang Clan was to the 90's and G-Unit was to the 2000's, the Odd Future crew is to the 2010's. Each collective group has both the fame and organized force in rap to call their own shots and release solo albums and spin-off projects as they please. Beyond that the analogy also extends to the members within said crews. Each one has their acclaimed lyricist - a Big Daddy Kane or GZA, and each has their cult favorite - an ODB or Lloyd Banks. When it comes right down to it though one member always seems to get the most critical acclaim and exposure in the pop culture mainstream - the 50 Cent or Tyler, the Creator of the clique. For better or worse when you're the Craig G of a crew, no matter how talented you are or how acclaimed your live performances are, you wind up being in the shadow of a rapper like Kane. Ultimately these are the tensions that often shatter rap crews into fragments. Songs like "Thisniggaugly" on Earl Sweatshirt's solo album "Earl" have been the source of much speculation on Odd Future fansites, with people wondering how Earl earned his membership in the #OFWGKTA clique. Most dismiss the story Tyler tells in this song as just a way to illustrate how close their friendship is. Others speculate that they knew each other as skaters long before anybody in O.F. realized Earl could rap, and some even think that Tyler and Earl first met each other on MySpace. "

Harn Solo :: Shooting Star :: Reaching Higher Records
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Shooting Star]
"In an interview on the public radio show Bullseye recently, Ice-T described how in the 1980s, you could buy every hip-hop album that came out, since only a handful were released each month. That meant that hip-hop fans from that time period almost all knew the same albums and had the same points of reference. Fast forward 25 years and the situation is drastically different. For one thing, you can't BUY most hip-hop albums. They are released as free albums or mixtapes or net tapes or whatever you want to call them. DatPiff, Hulkshare and Bandcamp have become the biggest distributors of rap music in 2012. As a result, not only can you not get every hip-hop album released each month, you can't get every hip-hop album released each WEEK. There isn't physically enough time to listen to them all. The market is so oversaturated that even trying to keep up is fruitless. Into this deluge of hip-hop music come New Orleans MC Harn Solo. He's teamed up with producer Prospek to offer up twelve tracks of hip-hop. The album available for free on Bandcamp, so there is no financial investment, but is it worth your time? Let's start with the positives: Prospek makes pretty dope beats. Though he's from New Orleans, the heavily synthesized beats typical of that region are absent. "

Illogic and Blockhead :: Preparing For Capture :: {self-released}
as reviewed by Patrick Taylor

[Preparing For Capture]
"New York producer Anthony "Blockhead" Simon has been making hip-hop beats since the days of dial-up. He was a frequent collaborator with Aesop Rock, and has also released five solo albums, including his recent "Interludes After Midnight." Columbus, Ohio MC Illogic has been making his brand of positive rap for as long as Blockhead, releasing seven albums since 2009. Now they have banded together for this EP. The album starts with a woman declaring "Music is the bridge between earth and heaven." The beat starts with pounding floor toms and a sample of a man singing. Blockhead mixes in piano flourishes and guitar, so that the beat is provided by both the drums and percussive piano. It's banging and beautiful, which is what Blockhead does best. Throughout this EP, and his entire career, he makes hip-hop that combines head-nodding beats, non-traditional sonic elements, and a pretty but sad vibe. He uses drums, pianos, flutes, and guitars to make music that is banging and melancholy at the same time. "Nails" has a bluesy vibe thanks to a slide guitar and harmonica, providing a nice template for Illogic and Rob Sonic to trade lines. "Ego's Orbit" uses reverbed buitar as the backdrop for Illogic's introspective rhymes, dropping lines like "What do you do when you don't wan to do anything/When you're a caged bird without a song to sing?" "Weigh You Down" has an upbeat disco beat."

Smoke DZA :: Rugby Thompson :: High Times Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Rugby Thompson]
"If Lil B is the #BasedGod, then Smoke DZA is the #KushedGod. Since he dropped his first mixtape "Substance Abuse" back in 2009, DZA has consistently portrayed himself as a top chronic smoker, a fact reflected by his nom de plume itself is a reference to smoking "Sour Diesel." Those looking for ways to describe his flow invariably use the same terms once applied to Parrish Smith - laid-back, smoothed out, relaxed, et cetera. I've even seen him called "the cool kid's cool kid" but personally that one seems like a little bit of a stretch. Nevertheless you name a who's who of today's up-and-coming young rappers like A$AP Rocky and ScHoolboy Q, and invariably the Harlemite has recorded tracks with them and appeared on their shit. 2012 is the year for Smoke DZA to take it to the next level, from free mixtapes and cameo appearances, to a commercially released album available physically and digitally worldwide. Appropriately he has teamed with High Times Records to put out "Rugby Thompson," an album produced entirely by his friend Harry Fraud. DZA says this album's title and concept is inspired by Nucky Thompson from the TV show "Boardwalk Empire." Nucky (as portrayed by Steve Buscemi) is a ruthless politician who controls an Atlantic City racket (hence the "Boardwalk") of influence and bootlegging during the prohibition of the 1920's."

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